Alagnak Wild River

History

A World-Class Fishery

One of Alagnak River's most noteworthy features is its salmon population. The river is brimming with all different species such as king, silver, chum and sockeye. In fact, the waters of the Alagnak support a significant sockeye salmon spawning habitat for the Bristol Bay commercial fishery, the largest in the world.

The life cycle of salmon plays an intriguing, integral role in maintaining the area's ecosystem. Salmon are born in freshwater and remain there up to two years, until they are large enough to begin their long journey downstream to the ocean. They reside in the saltwater up to three years, where they grow to be large fish with a silver sheen. Each summer, the five species of Pacific salmon return to their birthplace in the Alagnak River to spawn and die. As they migrate upstream by the hundreds of thousands, the salmon undergo incredible morphological changes: a male sockeye salmon turns a brilliant red and develops a distinctive humped back by the time it reaches its destination. Through this remarkable journey, salmon provide nutrients to support virtually every animal and plant species that call the Alagnak home. Rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, char, and arctic char all eat salmon eggs, juveniles and decaying bodies. Salmon carcasses also supply nutrients that allow insect populations to thrive. Even the arctic grayling, a fish that eats primarily aquatic insects, benefits from the presence of salmon. Other species along the Alagnak—such as the bald eagle and the Alaskan brown bear—flourish as a result of the salmon's extraordinary migration. For this reason, salmon populations must be carefully managed to ensure a healthy future for the Alagnak Wild River.

Along with salmon, there are rainbow trout, char, northern pike, Aleutian sculpin, Alaska blackfish, grayling and others to complete Alagnak's bounty and help provide some of the most attractive sport fish in the world. Small wonder this river has become the most popular fishing location in all of southwest Alaska. Yet this area is still vulnerable to the hazards of over-fishing; for this reason, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game takes steps to ensure that present regulations maintain the long-term stability of the Alagnak sport fishery. Subsistence fishing is permitted to local rural residents only.